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Published September 17, 2020
A longtime effort to separate the governance of the Western Research Institute (WRI) from the University of Wyoming has reached finality, following action today (Thursday) by the UW Board of Trustees.
The board approved a resolution supporting UW’s full divestment from WRI. This will allow WRI to be within its own separate nonprofit corporation, while maintaining its partnership with UW through a cooperating-agency agreement between the two entities.
Specifically, today’s action means the UW Board of Trustees will no longer appoint the members of WRI’s Board of Directors. And WRI will no longer do business as the UW Research Corporation, allowing the university to deploy the nonprofit entity in other ways for technology transfer and economic development efforts.
“In many ways, this completes a process that began in the early 1990s, when WRI took over control of itself, including its books, records and accounts,” UW Vice President for Research and Economic Development Ed Synakowski says. “We now intend to develop a cooperating-agency agreement with the institute, which will preserve beneficial aspects of the existing relationship and allow the university and WRI to continue to provide collaborative opportunities for faculty and students.”
“WRI’s scientists and governing board look forward to continued productive collaborations with UW, including a long tradition of internship opportunities for some of UW’s brightest students,” says Myron Allen, chair of WRI’s Board of Directors.
The nonprofit UW Research Corporation was created in 1983 as a result of defederalization of the Laramie Energy Technology Center, owned by the U.S. Department of Energy and operating in the Bureau of Mines Building on the UW campus. The Laramie Energy Technology Center became WRI, whose employees, equipment and patents were those of the UW Research Corporation and not UW.
In 1992-93, the UW Research Corporation bylaws were amended to allow WRI’s Board of Directors to operate as a separate governing body. WRI’s purpose was to carry on scientific research to aid the Wyoming and Rocky Mountain region by attracting and encouraging industrial development.
Since then, WRI has operated independently from UW, maintaining separate books and accounts, and handling its own billing and purchasing. It has a facilities lease agreement with the university. This final change will remove any formality by the UW Board of Trustees appointing WRI’s Board of Directors and also allow for WRI to be a separate nonprofit corporation from the UW Research Corporation.
The change will allow for new and broader use of the UW Research Corporation by the university, including research, education and outreach efforts through technology transfer, innovation, business development and incubation, and partnerships with industry, simultaneously allowing WRI to continue to grow and diversify. The change will not functionally alter the collaboration and cooperation that WRI and UW have, and will continue to share, pursuant to a newly negotiated and approved cooperating-agency agreement.